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Bloomington residents oppose application for liquor/smoke shop in Park Place subdivision

Three people sit at a long table under TVs.
Adeline Schultz
The Bloomington Liquor Commission held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposal to locate a liquor/smoke business in a closed Family Video store on the city's west side.

Several residents spoke out Tuesday against an application for a new packaged liquor and smoke shop in the Park Place subdivision in west Bloomington.

A public hearing was held by the Bloomington Liquor Commission on a proposal to locate the business in a closed Family Video store.

The proposed shop, called Galaxy Liquor and Smoke, would be situated by a Little Caesars pizza business in the shopping center near Jewel Osco, a grocery store that holds a Normal liquor license and also sells packaged alcohol and nicotine products. The property is located at 2210 N. Cottage Ave.

The applicant, Mauli, Inc. owns similar establishments in Mahomet and Manfield. The owner is Narendra Patel, whose lawyer, Michael Scott, argued the proposed shop would bring business to Bloomington-Normal and utilize a property that has stood vacant since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We do think that it’ll bring business to that area of Bloomington,” said Scott. “Right now, it’s a vacant video store that he’ll be occupying, and so right now there’s no tax base or anything that’s creating taxes for the City of Bloomington in that area.”

Residents opposed

But several residents of the subdivision spoke against the application, arguing it would degrade their neighborhood culturally and economically.

Desha Cobb, who lives in Park Place, said she's concerned the smoke/liquor shop would increase the potential for DUIs, and increase traffic and recreational marijuana use in the area.

Cobb also described Bloomington-Normal as having an “influx of smoke shops, dispensaries, gambling shops” and similar businesses in recent years, meaning the business would add nothing new to the community [Mauli, Inc. also has applied for a video gaming license]. She pointed out there are several similar businesses less than three miles from the Cottage Avenue location.

Family Video was “family-focused” and situated next to the grocery store and pizza shop, said Cobb, also noting the proximity of the location to White Oak Park, where residents go to exercise and spend time with their families and pets.

“It’s been my experience as a Chicago resident and then just traveling that you don’t find these types of stores in affluent neighborhoods because of the attention that they welcome,” Cobb concluded.

Resident Ed Wright referenced a study in his comments that showed a 41% rise in crime and significant declines in property values in areas around packaged liquor stores.

Alicia Henry cited research from Johns Hopkins in her comments that she said shows a 37% increase in violent crime in an area for every 10% increase in access to liquor. Several other residents echoed concerns about rising crime in the subdivision, noting that children often walk alone to the Little Caesars.

Paul Williams of the Bloomington Police Department confirmed resident reports that there are regular calls to the police regarding noise and other complaints at the newer apartment building near the Cottage Avenue location. He also confirmed the nearby Dollar General has been the victim of two armed robberies.

The police would “like to see a robust camera system” if the application is approved, Williams said.

Scott confirmed his client’s businesses all have security cameras.

Also noted is a nursing home that is, at most, 100 feet from the proposed location. A Bloomington ordinance states a “home for the aged” cannot be less than 100 feet from a liquor store. Some residents maintained the distance is less than 100 feet.

City attorney George Boyle remarked “it’s unusual” that the applicant does not already have a general manager hired at this point in the process.

Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe, acting as liquor commissioner, wished to speak with this individual and noted it is a requirement that a manager must be a resident of McLean County if the applicant is not. Patel is not a McLean County resident.

Patel stated in the application and at the meeting that his intention is to hire a full-time general manager from McLean County, but he is waiting until the license is approved to do so since it is difficult to get someone to commit to the job at this stage.

Mwilambwe said he will announce his decision on the application in the coming days.

Corrected: July 12, 2024 at 5:42 PM CDT
Adeline Schultz is a correspondent at WGLT. She joined the station in 2024.